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Tikal WWL TV Footage 1960

Published 1960

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This film and all of the films in the Penn Museum collection are copyrighted by the Penn Museum, and are not in the public domain.

Producer Tikal Project
Audio/Visual sound, b&w


Transcription of [low fidelity] interview. Interview with Ed Shook
possibly for WWL TV in New Orleans, LA, USA

Interviewer: Uh, Dr. Shook [inaudible]… alright, go on.
Ed Shook: First of all you have the ruins, which are the most spectacular of all and the greatest ruins in Central America, and the central attraction, yes. Then, then the government will set aside, uh, 225 square miles of this tropical forest as a, as a national trust. Well, and besides the, uh, focal interest in the ruins, you have people who are interested in birds, and the vegetation and the animals and the insects…And scientists as well as people who enjoy a national forest.
Interviewer: You have an airstrip here too now.
Ed Shook: There, there is an airstrip. It was started about 1950. And, uh, it was essential to the development of this project. I mean, we couldn’t operate this from muleback; we were [starting to getting tired of this?] And, uh, that was, uh, the real start that made this project, project possible. Uh, You had to have an airport. All of our materials,
Interviewer: [inaudible]
Ed Shook: …must come in by air.
Interviewer: And water too, I believe.
Ed Shook: Ah, water when it fails.
Interviewer: Uh-huh.
Ed Shook: We’ve now opened up Maya reservoirs. We collect rainwater. But when that fails we have to fly it in, just to maintain our force.
Interviewer: Well, doctor, we’re standing in the main plaza right now, and perhaps Raul could swing around and show some of these things. Uh, would you give us a brief description of what this is?
Ed Shook: Well, you’re standing right in the, uh, main plaza, the Great Plaza of Tikal. And the city radiates in all directions from you. And [here is] the nuclear center, of course you have [inaudible] of temples. Uh, this north side is packed with sixteen temples, facing the plaza, and then is framed by these enormous temples
Interviewer: Mm-hm
Ed Shook: uh, Great Temples I and II. And if you notice the concentration of monuments, which is a Maya, uh, is an indication of the importance of this zone for the Maya, because they erected monuments in, in honor of these gods of these various temples. So we, we decided, uh uh, first, uh, work should concentrate right here because we, we expect to find at least shreds of about two thousand years of history packed into this development right here alone, and it’s in concentrated form. So we’re, we’re working here first, [interviewer interrupts, inaudible] and we excavated here and discovered

{Film cuts out 2:47-3:02}

Ed Shook: [inaudible] you can’t predict that, but by appearance you can tell a temple of this sort was built over a tomb. So we start at the top, cutting from the floor level of the tomb directly downward. Well it could have been the top platform, it could have been the pyramid, but it happened to be sixty feet below
Interviewer: mm-hm
Ed Shook: the top of the, uh, temple. Now we had to go all the way down and cut into bedrock, and it was built about twenty feet below bedrock.
Interviewer: Pretty big [gym].
Ed Shook: It was a chamber carved out of bedrock.
Interviewer: mm-hm
Ed Shook: And the, uh, there was a major, uh, tomb, uh, with an elderly man, undoubtedly a high official in the, uh, of the Maya, placed on a wooden litter with seven or eight young men sacrificed to accompany him on his path
Interviewer: River to the other world.
Ed Shook: That’s right. And with a great deal of his personal riches and then offerings of food and very fine pottery vessels, and…
Interviewer: uh-huh
Ed Shook: And a crocodile was placed alongside his food and turtles and birds, and and undoubtedly regular food like tortillas and beans and so on. Well that was a major operation. We, we uncovered that tomb last year.
Interviewer: And you’re still studying [it here].
Ed Shook: Uh, yes, and we’re still repairing the material because the, uh, in ancient times the roof was collapsed, which crushed most of the delicate, uh, pottery specimens. And now we’ve completed our investigation of this Temple of the Red Stele and now we’re going to refill that cut and solidify the whole building.
Interviewer: uh-huh
Ed Shook: So that you will see the actual building itself in a, in a, in, in a fair state of preservation.
Interviewer: Uh-huh
Ed Shook: We won’t restore it to its complete, uh, state, but solidify it so that, uh, what is there now will be preserved.
Interviewer: Well sir, what is this one immediately behind us and I-
Ed Shook: -uh-
Interviewer: -think probably Raul could pick that up? Now-
Ed Shook: This is, this is the temple we call, uh, the, uh the Giant Jaguar, uh, because there were carved wood beams over the doorways, and th- the major scene there, the, uh, the priest seated on the throne with a rampant jaguar looming over him.
Interviewer: Oh.
Ed Shook: Uh, it’s in, uh, [heroic] scale,
Interviewer: Uh-huh
Ed Shook: And, uh, so we call the Temple of the Giant Jaguar.
Interviewer: Now is this, uh, a new site of excavation or have you been on this for several years?
Ed Shook: We, we been on this for several years. This is in its, uh, second year as a matter of fact.
Interviewer: What does your staff do, Dr. [inaudible]
Ed Shook: We have a staff that’s rather international. Uh, we have a nuclear staff

{Film cuts out 5:50-6:15}

Interviewer: Roll ‘em? Dr. Shook, how long [have you been exploring in this] area?
Ed Shook: W-we began in January of fifty six.
Interviewer: How -
Ed Shook: but, uh, we’re [inaudible] year.
Interviewer: How many more years do you personally [inaudible]
Ed Shook: Well, I personally hope to be on this project for another-
Interviewer: Uh, you said you were starting to begin in January of nineteen fifty-six. Makes your [inaudible]
Ed Shook: This is our fifth year, uh, starting January. We finished our fourth and are in our fifth right now.
Interviewer: How many months per year do you think you [inaudible]
Ed Shook: Well, we’ve been actually working twelve months a year, but that’s unusual for an archaeology project.
Interviewer: [Inaudible question]
Ed Shook: No, about six months of the year.
Interviewer: Do you teach for the rest of the time?
Ed Shook: No, do research. Try to write up the reports, the results of the work here.
Interviewer: What are the major [inaudible] [of Maya] [inaudible] that you’ve made so far.
Ed Shook: Well, we now have found the oldest dated monument here, uh, I think that’s known in the Maya area. Well, we, uh, we believe that before, but we didn’t have the proof, and that’s one of our major discoveries.
Interviewer: That’s the one we just saw down the road.
Ed Shook: That’s right. And, uh, then as we’ve always felt this was a, uh, cultural center of the Maya, more or less the capital from which stemmed the whole civilization. We’re-we’re beginning to probe that now.
Interviewer: uh-huh
Ed Shook: And finding, uh, well, for example, right here in the Plaza, we think of beginning at about one thousand BC
Interviewer: Oh.
Ed Shook: and all, all you’re seeing here is the final result, it’s the, the effigy of the Maya culture
Interviewer: Uh-huh.
Ed Shook: but all below you and building up is, uh, material from about a thousand BC up to about a thousand AD. So we have about two, three thousand years of occupation.
Interviewer: Well, uh, Doctor, have you reached a personal conclusion as to why the Mayans left?
Ed Shook: Yes, I have. Uh, we think it’s a matter of overpopulation and overrunning their agricultural potential of the area. The increase in population is fantastic from about seven to nine hundred AD. And, uh, I personally believe it was a question of, uh, too many people for the amount of agricultural land available to them. Now that-
Interviewer: And they went from here to Yucatan?
Ed Shook: Well, no, we don’t exactly know where they went, but that they’re spread out. Uh, uh, probably it wasn’t an overnight proposition of leaving here, but a gradual dissipation of the population to more advantageous places. And a breakdown of [inaudible] cultural [inaudible].

{Film cuts our}


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University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Films
by Dr. Harry B. Wright